Tag Archives: hopelessness

Adventures Per Minute

"Adventures Per Minute." 5/5/14. Acrylic paint, spray paint, and ink. 36x48".
“Adventures Per Minute.” 5/5/14. Acrylic paint, spray paint, and ink. 36×48″.

“Adventures Per Minute” is how I felt in early April. From the moment I woke up until I crawled into bed each night, I was busy. Traveling back and forth between Jacksonville, Delray, and Sarasota; giving interviews and being photographed; attending the premiere of the movie I starred in; directing a music video; setting up exhibits; making and distributing fliers and meeting people; selling prints at One Spark and Spring Fest; fucking; designing album covers and merchandise for some of my favorite bands; making more money than I’ve ever made in my life; and (of course) painting – at parks, at friends’ houses, on the streets, at punk shows, on rooftops, and at galleries.

It was just outside one of those galleries that I started this painting. Passers-by would stop, compliment my work, and ask how I was doing. That sparked the first small caption: “HOW AM I? I’m standing on a stool, paintin’ funny faces outside the gallery that sells my paintings for all the moneys. So – yeah I’m okay.”

At the other end of the canvas, I elaborated: “I have everything.” And I really do. I’m not super rich just yet but all of my needs are met and then some.

I went back to Sarasota with the intention of trading in my van for a bigger one; it was my last stop before I finally took my show on the road outside of Florida. I changed my mind about the van but had quite a time back in that city where I (sort of) grew up. Things were messy – not only with friends in Sarasota but in my “adoptive” family’s house up the road in Bradenton. Drugs, lying, screaming, stealing… it was all around me and it was starting to fuck with my head. I don’t often feel “triggered” and – for the most part – think it’s sort of a bullshit concept. One afternoon in particular became an exception. I was on the back porch painting when the weather started acting up but there was no way I was walking back into the house. I took to the top corner of my canvas and started journaling:

It's been ten days [since I last wrote on this painting]. I'm on the porch in Bradenton. There's a tornado warning. I don't care. That'd be cooler if I actually thought it might hit. I would totally shoot up right now if I had drugs in front of me. BUT I HAVE THE MONEY THESE DAYS.

My best friend (the one that used to shoot heroin) - he started shooting heroin again. And smoking [and shooting] crack. I had him Marchman Acted soon as I got back to Sarasota. Everyone's pretty happy about that - and I've been buying into it too. But let's get real. Nothing has changed. This is just getting started. And it's gonna get a lot worse. I kind of think he's gonna die soon. What should I do? Drag him around the country with me? That's a lot of responsibility. And what would he do all day everyday?

And I love Abby too but her situation is even tougher, more hopeless.

I was talking to Heather about some of this and she asked me if I'll "ever get to live for myself." But I'm more independent, disconnected, and uninvolved than anyone. I do "me" constantly. But I grew up a fuck-up with other fuck-ups and what little I'm able to do these days when this shit goes on - I need to. Sometimes I'm the only one that can. I can't live without people anyway. It's all part of the package.

It's all worth it, I think. Even when it hurts a lot. And makes me wanna put a needle back in my arm. I don't think I will but, for the second time since I stopped, I really want to. This shit is dangerous.

And I haven't even gotten into the other shit that's eating me right now… My phone is ringing. What kinds of decisions am I gonna make today?

I feel safer in this house with drugs, screaming, CPS, threats, lies, theft, etc. than at Morgan's ('cause she's got roommates) and this [house] is the only place I don't feel like an intruder.

I paused and thought about all the good things that had happened lately – and the specifics of some of the bad… I brought the pen back to the canvas.

Life is sad and tragic and funny and beautiful. I'm usually having a pretty good time. I laugh and smile a lot. I don't want the people I care about to die. Or to live without knowing happiness.

Up to this point, I hadn’t given any thought to what I was writing or how it might be received. I just let it come out, even when it occurred to me that I might need or want to remove Abby’s name at some point. But after I finished that long journal down the left side of the canvas, I remembered that I was creating art and that I had intended for this to be a joyful painting – a celebration of the wonderful, exciting things happening in my life. “I need to balance out all this dark with some the light I experienced leading up to this.” But (in my soul, not my brain) I really only felt compelled to write the darker (more recent) stories. I decided to phrase everything in the present tense.

I am standing in an alley while my friend smokes the last of her crack before I take her to the police station, from which she'll be transported to detox, under court order. I picked her up in an empty parking lot.

I am dropping my "sister" off (with everything she owns) at a drug dealer's house. An hour ago, she attempted to transfer custody of her daughter to me. I still live in / operate primarily out of A VAN. We hugged and I told her to not be a fuck-up.

I am back on Adderall [after a month without] and I think the dose is too high now and I'm too in my head and having thoughts like these: [An arrow points at the long, sad, I-wanna-shoot-heroin, my-friends-are-dying journal].

I needed my positive adventures to balance the painting and convey what “adventures per minute” had meant to me initially. But I had already told those nice stories on my blog. Repeating them here felt contrived. I did it anyway but in just four short sentences – covering One Spark, the music video, the film festival, and painting on rooftops. A few days later though, I had another adventure. But one that I didn’t want to be the first thing to pop out at someone. I hid it against a dark blue backdrop. It says: “I just PRETEND (consensually) ‘raped’ a girl that identifies as ‘gay.’ It was pretty awesome. I like her.”

So THAT sort of raises some questions and probably warrants a whole exposition of its own but this statement’s already long enough, I’m writing this in Atlanta, and – you know – I got some more adventures I really ought to be getting up to right about now so…

Nothing Helps

In September 2012, I was working on my first major assignment at Tranquil Shores. About halfway through, one of the questions wasn’t really a question; it just said to draw an image of powerlessness. Fuck that. (This was around the time that I had just started to sort of sometimes enjoy art). I skipped the question for the time being and went to the next. “Powerlessness can creep into how you feel about yourself. If you were painting a portrait of yourself today, how would it look? Do you go to bed or wake up with feelings of shame or grief? What about the things you’ve  wanted to accomplish that remain undone? What feelings do you have when your actions go against what you know is right? Share the way you really feel about yourself today. Paint with words a self-portrait of your inner feelings.”

Here’s how I answered (on 9/11/12):      

If I were painting a self-portrait of my inner feelings today, it wouldn’t look quite like my inner feelings. I feel a little too okay right now and – as we all know – only art born of anger, discontent, self-loathing, misery, pain, poverty, and/or shit is worth anything. So whatever I painted would be too contrived to be any good. Unless I successfully recalled some darker moments and managed to displace my current sort-of-pleasant state of mind.

I don’t usually wake up with shame. Well… sometimes. I always did when I was using (or a lot anyway). The things I want to accomplish will be fairly simple if I stay clean. Well, making another Troublemake record will be. Maybe not becoming at peace with myself and the world. Fuck, but I do sometimes act contrary to my intentions and then I feel really stupid, foolish, and inferior. Like when half of the things I say in a day (okay, less than that) can be heard escaping my mouth. That hurts. But generally, I feel enthused and intelligent. (I hate having to say good things about myself or about how I’m feeling though). It makes me feel self-conscious. And then less of whatever I was feeling before I said it (particularly when it comes to positive attributes). I’m definitely far more concerned with how others will perceive me than I have been at any other point in my life.     I can’t feel good about myself and say it without it disappearing or at least fading.

Sometimes I feel confident, appreciated, (relatively) important, or even powerful (in some sort of sense) but the moment I acknowledge it, I feel insecure, discouraged, hurt, and lonely – which I soak in until those feelings morph into hopelessness, anger, apathy, and recklessness – which I use to ruin everything and ruin myself. Eventually, I feel outright hateful (though I direct most of it inward, at myself).

Maybe I don’t have to fake it after all… Maybe I’m really not in great emotional shape and I can paint a really awful self-portrait. I guess I could say… “I’m a bit miserable – not coming apart at the seams; things aren’t as bad as they seem but they ain’t much better…”

If I’m not always totally aware of these things, I’m at least thoughtful, but I’m also prone to confusion, self-doubt, and depression. It can be a little volatile. I’m a little volatile. My strongest “inner feeling” is instability. I don’t feel stable.

—–

I finished answering all of the written questions within two weeks, but it wasn’t until October 2nd that I finally went back and drew the image of powerlessness that I needed to call the assignment complete.

"Nothing Helps." 10/2/12. Colored pencil and oil pastel. 6x9".
“Nothing Helps.” 10/2/12. Colored pencil and oil pastel. 6×9″.

I drew this on a Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, I was pulled aside and told that I was being discharged. I was getting kicked out of my third treatment facility that year. It was raining. I had no way to get anywhere and nowhere to go anyway. Someone gave me a little bit of money to help get me wherever I might decide to go. I spent the next couple hours arguing with myself: whether or not I should use it to go to a shooting range where, for twenty-five dollars, I could get my hands on a gun, put a bullet in my head, and just be done with it.

—–

In my answer to the “self-portrait” question, I quoted a song. As I drew my image of powerlessness, I had another song on my mind. Here are both.

“Sorry Sam” by The Slow Death
I wake up in the warm sun on a folded out futon. Get some water from the bathroom sink and try to figure out what happened to me. And when I say, “I’m doing okay,” – it’s mostly overstated. I spent my nights forgetting, my afternoons regretting, all the stupid things I said and everything I should have done instead. And when I say, “I’m doing okay,” – it’s mostly overstated. I’m a bit miserable, not coming apart at the seams. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, but they ain’t much better.

“Wrong” by Off With Their Heads
Sit back and let me tell you about the sadness, about the beast that’s been gnashing its teeth trying to destroy me. It rears its head every time I’m alone. In the middle of the night, if you don’t answer your phone, it snarls at me. It hides underneath my bed and it sinks its teeth in every corner of my head. Don’t try to stop it, don’t try to control it, don’t try to defeat it, don’t try to console it – it’s unstoppable and it’s a part of me. Your best bet is not to get too close to me. Stay the fuck away, stay out of its reach or it will poison you like it’s been poisoning me. It tells me what I’m supposed to say and it controls every move that I make. You’ve got me all wrong. It’s not “the real me” screaming you away – it’s that selfish sadness ruining every day. Everything is wrong.

—–

  • “Sorry Sam” comes from The Slow Death’s 2011 album, “Born Ugly, Got Worse,” on Kiss of Death Records.
  • “Wrong” comes from Off With Their Heads’ 2008 album, “From the Bottom,” on No Idea Records. (Though it was originally released as “I Hate My Stupid Ass and I Hope I Get in a Car Accident Tonight” on the band’s 2007 split 7-inch with Dukes of Hillsborough, on ADD Records).
  • 5¾x4″ prints of “Nothing Helps” are available in my webstore.
  • If you’re interested in purchasing the original drawing, send me an email.

Evil

"Evil." 11/1/12. Pen. 8½x11".“Evil.” 11/1/12. Pen. 8½x11″.

I didn’t like Spirituality Group because I didn’t have any spirituality. But it was Thursday afternoon at Tranquil Shores so that’s what was happening. I was especially miserable on this particular day and it got worse as group went on. Toward the end, we were given an assignment: Write a letter of forgiveness (to yourself) and share it with the group. I wouldn’t share but I kind of wrote the letter.

Dear Sam,
You are a total fucking shithead. You gave up on everything a long time ago. Though you sometimes have brief moments of optimism, they’re few, far between, and extremely short-lived. Everything you say is calculated and contrived. You may be the most dishonest asshole to ever walk the earth.
I’d like to forgive you on the grounds that you’re doing the best you can – that you can’t help but be a miserable little prick – but even that’s not true. If you wanted to be a better person, you would be.
And you’re not even nice to look at! How have you not been choked out yet? People can’t stand the fucking sight of you. Even your voice is outrageously obnoxious. Every day that you continue to live is either a slight against God or proof that he doesn’t exist – or at least doesn’t care about anything anymore. Or maybe you’re the new plague for the twenty-first century! Sent down to punish this wretched world gone awry. Only YOU are deluded enough to (even jokingly) attribute that kind of significance to your stupid presence.
All I know is that people, and the planet, would be better off without you around. Please kill yourself now.
Unfortunately, time has shown that you’re too weak to even bust that move. Seeing as you’re too pathetic to even express in words (given the limitations of human languages) I’ll forgive you. It’s a pity thing. It must be hard to be so worthless and rotten. Besides, I’m not one to hold grudges. I just hope that you’re somehow miraculously transformed or that – somewhere out there – there is some kind of hell for you to burn in one day.
Love, Sam

As a kid, I’d always said that I didn’t believe in God. Sometime in my early twenties, my position went even further. I wasn’t willing to identify with atheism because I didn’t want to stake any claim — and because I didn’t want to identify with atheists (who often seemed as righteous and fanatical as the worst evangelicals). And agnosticism was just dopey (or agnostics were anyway). They were to spirituality what undecided voters are to politics. I wasn’t undecided – I didn’t give a shit. I was a non-voter, a total non-participant. If anyone asked if I believed in God, I’d tell them it wasn’t a relevant question – that it meant nothing to me.

In trying to not be a heroin addict anymore it had become necessary to let some of that antipathy slip away. I had taken to talking about God as if I believed.

But this was Spirituality Group and I hated it. I looked at the letter I had just written and I hated that too. It was like I was trying to be clever with my self-loathing. It made me hate myself even more. I flipped over the letter and started scratching an upside-down cross onto the page, around which I wrote I FUCKING HATE GOD for making me this fucking stupid.

This was on November 1, 2012 – before I learned to use art for emotional regulation. If this is art though, then this is the first time I did it (even if by accident). After scratching down the last of my authentic expression [the words I HATE EVERYTHING] I wasn’t done but I didn’t know what to do. “What else do people consider evil?” I thought.

From that point on, each thing I wrote was sillier than the next. I wasn’t miserable anymore, I was actually having fun.

My favorite part / the coup de grace came when I snuck the least evil thing that I could think of onto the page.

HAKUNA MATATA

—–

No Accident

 

"No Accident." 12/12/12. Oil pastel and pencil. 12x18".
“No Accident.” 12/12/12. Oil pastel and pencil. 12×18″.

On October 2, 2012, I was kicked out of Tranquil Shores. It was my third time being kicked out of rehab that year. This time was different though. I knew what I needed to do and, on October 19th, I was welcomed back.

When I had been kicked out of Hazelden and the Wellness Resource Center, a lot of what was going wrong with me had to do with girls. At both facilities, I got “involved” with another patient. That hadn’t been the case this time but, when I was readmitted, I started doing it again. This time, I was determined enough to succeed that I didn’t let it control me the way it had before. We had more than a few conversations about how we were just friends (even once in the presence of the treatment staff when they began to worry about what might be developing). But I held on, I didn’t give in and do anything that would have been automatic grounds for my being kicked out again. Still, it eventually got to a point where we had resolved to be together after we got out of treatment and that’s the kind of emotional attachment that’s not good for anyone early in recovery, let alone a basket case like myself.

I don’t mean it as an excuse because I don’t see it that way but my thoughts, emotional responses, and consequent behaviors are not like most people’s. I “have” borderline personality disorder.

Something happened. It doesn’t matter what. She and I weren’t getting along and it was fucking ruining me. And because I wasn’t supposed to be involved with anyone (let alone a girl I was in treatment with) I couldn’t be honest with my counselor or anyone else about what was eating at me. It occurred to me that – if I wasn’t willing to talk about my issues – there was no longer any reason to be in treatment. Things got worse until one night, alone in my room, I lost it. [Since that’s a whole story of its own though, I won’t go into the details here].

The next morning I woke up feeling thoroughly empty, thoroughly hopeless. In my head, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t really doing anything wrong because I hadn’t actually slept with the girl. But I was fucking destroying any shot I had at ever getting better. I was already contemplating leaving and I knew, if I went down that path, I’d be shooting heroin again in no time. I was keeping my mouth shut for the sake of my relationship with this girl, but if I didn’t start talking and sort this shit out [if I left Tranquil Shores] the relationship was over anyway; I’d lose everything. I talked to a friend and realized that I had no choice. So I told the truth about everything that had gone on between us.

And she denied everything. She told them that it was all in my head – that I was even sicker and more confused than I seemed. I couldn’t believe it. I thought this was going to be the best thing for us. We weren’t supposed to get mixed up with each other in the first place but… it happened (nothing could change that) and now we’d be able to deal with it. And get better. It was going to be awesome. The greatest relief ever. But she wasn’t interested. She stuck to her story: that I was out of my fucking mind. I had an encyclopedia’s worth of Facebook and text messages to prove otherwise, but when my counselor said I could show them to her if I wanted to it felt petty. I realized that the truth didn’t matter. It was a big epistemological lesson for me. Emotions are stronger than facts. If I held that this relationship had happened, my treatment was going to progress as if that were the truth. If she held that it hadn’t, her treatment would address the issue as if that were the truth. [Weeks later, she did come clean and acknowledge that everything I said was true, but that’s not relevant to this piece].

After the dust settled from the shit storm that had been that afternoon, I went back to my room and wrote.

Pretty bummed out right now. Sad about the person I’ve let myself become. Not feeling totally lost though. I’m grateful for the lesson I was able to learn today and for the opportunity to use that knowledge to make my future better than my past. It hurts now, but this will be a good thing so long as I’m willing to utilize it, grow, and change.

I needed to get out of my self for a little while so I started to draw. Three hours later, I was flooded with feelings that I didn’t know what to do with. I stopped drawing. I scrambled around my room looking for something to write on. I found a piece of paper that I had traced my arms onto three weeks prior [for a project I hadn’t finished; I still needed to draw a knife into my right hand, for starters]. A few days prior I had that intention, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now, I didn’t care about that. I just needed something to write on. What spilled onto the paper was very stream-of-conscious. Just before I touched my pencil to the page, I decided to put it in my left hand since (it’s said that) writing with your non-dominant hand helps with honesty and hinders pretension.

i didn’t know who i was or what i was doing
i’m not whole yet but I’m closer than ever
remember october?
i realized I could choose to not be an obnoxious, negative problem
november ended, i forgot
today is 12-12-12 and i just remembered
and i learned something new today
i can choose more
i don’t have to be confused
i don’t have to send mixed messages or be inauthentic
i can be whoever i want to be
I KNOW WHO I AM TODAY
i am honest sincere loving compassionate kind intelligent fun dedicated loyal creative talented doing my best sorry for the harm and hurt i’ve caused proud of my achievements and sam NICE TO MEET YOU

I’m embarrassed of this piece sometimes. The old, guarded me would call this the dumbest shit ever. But – as I commented when I first made it – it’s the most positive, productive thing I’ve ever produced. In recovery, there’s lot of talk about a “spiritual awakening.” This is the unintentional document of mine. I’m so grateful that I have it to remind me of exactly how I felt in that moment. I only wish that I could feel that way all the time. My resolve to be the kind of person that I described had (and has) never been stronger.